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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Small but Exceedingly Wise (1)

"Ants are creatures with little strength, but they prepare their food in the summer" (Prov. 30:25).

Here's a fun fact for you: Ants may form 15-25% of terrestrial animal biomass.  That means that if you took all land animals on the planet and weighed them on one huge scale, 15-25% of the total weight comes from ants.  Wow.  Is it safe to say that the tiny, lowly ant is pretty darned successful?

The authors of Proverbs thought that the ant was special for several reasons, and Agur gives one of them: ants prepare their food in the summer.

So how can a small church learn wisdom from the ant?  The lesson that I think jumps to most folks' minds goes something like this: "Times will come that will be tough.  So we need to set aside our income to save for those bad times.  We need to spend as little as possible so that we have plenty in the bank, so that if something catastrophic happens or we lose lots of members, our church will still be able to keep going.  That is prudent."  Along these lines I know of a smallish but fairly wealthy church where there once was a treasurer whose goal was to build the church's endowment to a million dollars so that no one would have to give to the church ever again to keep it going.

Let me suggest that this is about the most disastrous lesson a small church could learn from ants.  Yes, hard times will inevitably come.  Yes, keeping an operating cash reserve is a very prudent thing to do.  (Goodness knows that a frightening amount of my salary has been paid out of such reserves in my five years of pastoral ministry.)  But notice that this lesson, which you might consider a cross between this Scripture and Aesop's fable of the ant and the grasshopper, is more about impending scarcity in the winter than about present opportunity in the summer.  But the summer is where Agur's focus is!  What makes ants so wise, and what small churches can learn from them, is that ants seize current opportunities that won't last forever.

A church that is small but wise like ants can be enormously effective for the kingdom.  One of the challenges faced by large churches is that they have so much going on to coordinate and so many people to communicate with and get buy-in from that it can be difficult to act swiftly to seize opportunities for ministry.  A small church doesn't have to have that problem.  A small church can allow communication to flow through the body quickly and buy-in doesn't have to take as long to obtain.  So if a new opportunity arises to serve someone in the name of Jesus, the small church can shift gears and respond rapidly where a larger church might not be able to.  Like ants that begin appearing above ground as soon as it becomes warm, a small church can coordinate and love people as soon as they see the chance.

Unfortunately, small churches often fail to display this wisdom and employ their natural strength.  Churches that once were medium-sized or large in particular have a structure and protocol (written or unwritten) that guarantees that the body moves at glacial speed.  A complicated tangle of boards and committees that require more people than the church has, disinterest in forward-looking discussion (I know one church whose board meets for no more than exactly 60 minutes each month), a "can't-do" corporate attitude, and a demand for absolute consensus rather than a compromising majority and a graciously yielding minority all combine to squash the small church's potential for haste.  By the time they do get around to acting, if at all, the opportunity to touch sensitive hearts may be gone.

But if the small church learns to be nimble, recognizing opportunities to evangelize and serve and seizing them quickly, it can do great things.  So how practically might a small church become as wise as ants?

I think that a shared vision is essential to this (a theme that I think will arise often in this series).  Such a vision emerges out of the church's corporate identity.  Every church has a unique identity, just as every person is unique—every Christian is bound to obey the two great commandments, but how that is expressed in the flesh varies as widely as people do, and churches are no different.  It's no challenge to create a corporate identity, because the identity already exists.  The work is in getting to know the church deeply enough to figure out just what that unique identity is and then put it into words so that people in the church say, "Yes! that's us!" as soon as they hear it.  The vision is nothing other than the blooming of our identity—how we might become the best "we" that God made us uniquely to be.  (I'd like to go further on some tools I've found to ascertain this, but that's a longer story and a post for another day.)

If the church shares that articulate, instinctively grasped and compelling vision, then decisions can be made quickly.  If an opportunity for ministry arises that meshes with the vision, someone will be apt to see it right away.  When that person tells their friends, its suitability to the vision will accelerate its transmission through the body.  When it comes time for decision, the choice to do something or not to do something can happen quickly on the criterion of whether it fits the vision.  More talk and work then needs to be done on the practical side ("What do we do and how do we do it?"), but just to say "yes" to an opportunity speedily goes a long way toward seizing it.

One way I'm really proud of my church in this area is that we are really good at caring about people with needs.  When a friend of a neighbor of a relative of an occasional attender of our church loses their job or goes into the hospital or needs to move, my church springs into action to help like I've never seen anybody else do.  That's the wisdom of ants that I'm talking about, seizing opportunities for the kingdom while we have them.  So what we're beginning to contemplate is, "Hey, why not do everything that way?"—why not define our reason for existence as being instruments of God's care for others along the way and coordinate everything we do around that objective?

Of course, one of the things that keeps us from doing everything that speedily is a structure that stifles the advantage of a small group of people who all know each other really well.  At some point we have to fix that.  But I think it would be a big mistake just to rework our bylaws and think that that all by itself will make us ant-like.  The vision needs to be cast and shared first and only then do we rework the structure to accomodate the vision.  Otherwise a new structure without a vision would just impede our nimbleness some other way.

Small churches can do great things if they, like ants, seize current opportunities for ministry that won't last forever.  It's not our size but our lack of wisdom that limits us.  What do you think, or how have you seen small churches do this?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Small but Exceedingly Wise (Intro)

They say that the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

Thousands of years ago a man named Agur, son of Jakeh, made a similar observation.  As he looked at animals in the natural world, he noted that "There are four things on earth that are small, but they are exceedingly wise" (Prov. 30:24).  Other animals, not to mention human beings themselves, may be larger, stronger, and more majestic, but these small animals have power and stamina that the larger creatures often lack.

As the pastor of a small church, I find Agur's wisdom to be exceedingly good news.

I used to read Leadership journal, and I got some good stuff out of it.  I only quit reading it because I have more to read than I have time to read it.  But one thing that irritated me about Leadership is that the authors were, naturally, obviously successful pastors of large and thriving churches, and thus what captured their imaginations often seemed to be pertinent only to obviously successful pastors of large and thriving churches.  So it started to get old skimming articles on topics like how to leverage your missional, multi-site church's resources among its annual conference on Christianity and Creating Culture, installing a prayer labyrinth in its community center in a newly gentrified neighborhood, and closing the back door on its small group ministry in order to crack the 300-cell barrier.  Okay, I just made that article up, and it's not a fair impression of the totality of any given Leadership issue.  But if you don't understand everything in that sentence, and even more so if you do, you can appreciate how easy it is in a small church (say, arbitrarily, 100 or less worshipers on the average Sunday and one pastor) to think, "We can't do anything because we aren't this and we don't have that."

That's where the wisdom of Agur comes in.  Agur says, "Hey, size isn't everything.  Wisdom is much more important.  If the small are wise, they can punch above their weight; they can actually do things that are impossible for the big boys to do."  This isn't to say that the goal of the small is to remain small.  But it does mean that if the small are wise, they can do great things.  They might even remain small, but in the kingdom of God their impact is huge.

Next time I'll begin meditating on how Agur's animal observations can be applied by small churches, lessons that I'm wrestling with how to apply myself.  If you're in a small church or familiar with them, please join me and make comments; let's meditate together.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Thinking about Thinking about the Kingdom

I've been wondering lately, are we thinking enough about the kingdom of God?

I've been reading through Luke (and occasionally blogging on what I read) and have been facilitating a Bible study on the kingdom, so I've got kingdom on the brain.  (Go here to read a brief description of what I mean when I'm talking about the kingdom of God.)

The kingdom is a really big deal.  In Matthew, Mark, and Luke (and even in a few curious places in John) it is the summarized content of all Jesus' teaching.  It is prominently embedded in the prayer Jesus taught us to pray (arguably reflected in the whole thing).

So how can I go for days and days and not think in terms of the kingdom?  How can I read Christian books, hear sermons, read blogs, and engage in pious conversations and not hear about the kingdom?

Why do we (I'll leave it to your imagination how I'm defining "we") seem less comfortable talking in terms of the kingdom than in terms of atonement, forgiveness, justification, and so forth?  Is it that the kingdom is harder to understand in our culture than those other concepts?  I'm not sure that it is.  Is it that we're more comfortable talking about forgiveness of sin, which focuses on faith and reckons us more passive, than about the kingdom, which focuses on repentance and has active obedience to the King as an inescapable requirement?  I'm not sure.

Here's a related thing I've been wondering: how do I announce the kingdom to the unbelievers I know?  For one thing, I need to explain the concept.  But for another, I have to get the conversation started.  What are the things that people say to which some version of "Guess what?—the kingdom is coming and is now here in Jesus!" is a coherent answer?  I think I have some answers to these questions, but I'm not satisfied with them.  I feel like there's something more that I'm missing.

Just wondering.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Likely Folly of the Smarter Planet

As I watched the Masters last weekend (and the NCAA men's basketball tournament the weeks before that), I saw about a hundred IBM commercials like this one featuring various "IBM-ers" encouraging me to build a smarter planet.  The idea is that by gathering huge amounts of information, aggregating it, analyzing it, and automating it, organizations can predict the future based on past patterns and adjust to the prediction as soon as new information is gathered.

I have to admit, I find this idea very cool.  It reminds me of my favorite sci-fi story series, Isaac Asimov's Foundation, which involves the futuristic discipline of psychohistory, which applies mathematics to huge numbers of people to predict the collective future of those people.  Asimov also fiddled with this concept in his short story collection I, Robot, not in his depiction of sentient humanoid constructions but with respect to computers that eventually run economies, governments, businesses, etc. because their powers of prediction based on data far surpass any human's.

Speaking of predictions, I predict that the IBM-ers will succeed in building a smarter planet.  We will multiply automated, flexible systems that manage situations "in real time," which makes everything run more smoothly.  We will more ably predict the future in ways hidden from most of us, and that will make life better.

But in one important respect this smarter planet will make us much dumber: we will grow so accustomed to being able to predict the future based on our automated analysis of huge amounts of data that we will actually think we know stuff.  Our confidence that we can predict anything by just advancing our data collection and analysis incrementally will lead us into colossal failures of judgment, because as our predictive capacity grows the size of our blind spot toward what we can't predict will grow too.  History is too littered with such failures of judgment and perception (most recently the financial meltdown) to make plausible the idea that just a little more data or a little more automation will grant us omniscience.  In biblical words, "Knowledge puffs up" (1 Cor. 8:1), and "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall" (Prov. 16:18).

Kind of reminds one of the tower of Babel, doesn't it?  Think God will let us get away with that this time around?

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Tower of Babel (1563)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sportsmanship, the Greatest Commandments, and the Christian Athlete

(AP Photo/Rob Carr)

For the first time ever I avidly followed golf this week, and by avidly I mean that I caught highlights a time or two on Thursday and Friday and watched all televised coverage on the weekend.  (Usually I don't watch golf, and when I do it's the last two hours or less of the entire tournament.)  This is because (a) I've been sick in bed, and more importantly (b) I was pulling for Tiger Woods in his bid to return to his career and reform his life at the same time, which in my opinion is really the only way to do either.  (Why I was rooting for Tiger, whom I have heretofore always both respected and rooted against, is another story.)

Anyway, it appears that on Thursday and Friday we really were seeing Tiger 2.0.  He seemed relaxed, good-natured, accessible, and in touch with his surroundings.  But then two things started happening.  First, the pressure inexorably ratcheted up as the tournament drew closer and closer to its conclusion, and second, Tiger started losing his touch.  Both of these factors seemed to call back the emotional presence of Tiger 1.0.

To me the most telling demonstration of this was his brief interview immediately after his final hole.  When asked more than once and in different ways what his overall evaluation of his experience of the week was, his single-minded focus was his failure to finish first because of his sloppy play.  (He ended tied for fourth, rather amazingly I might add.)  At any point during that little interview he might have mentioned his gracious reception by "the patrons" at Augusta (why on earth do they insist on calling them that?) or the soothing companionship of the unflappable K. J. Choi, with whom Tiger was paired every day of the tournament and who miraculously finished with the identical score as Tiger's every day, or the trust (we assume) his wife Elin had in him to allow him to be out of her sight for a week.  But these things were entirely outside of his consciousness.

And that's when I think I began to understand the reason both for Tiger's brilliance and for his self-destructive behavior.  As the pressure rises, Tiger's universe shrinks until there is absolutely no one left in it but himself.  When Tiger loudly calls down curses on himself (in effect) for shanking tee shots as he did twice on Saturday and once on Sunday, it's because in a very real way in his own mind there is literally no one else to hear them.  You and I and the other however-many-million people watching simply don't exist.

This is why Tiger is so good.  Every sport requires focus and concentration to perform at the highest level, but there is nothing quite like golf, in which the serenity, silence, and alignment of body, mind, and emotions have to be perfect all the time, where the tiniest deviance or disharmony has the potential to devastate any chance of success.  In order to maintain this perfection, every golfer must retreat from the distractions of the world around him for every shot, which is no small feat.  Tiger is exceptionally good at doing this.  But he is so good at retreating into his own world that arguably for the last several years he never came out to rejoin the real one.  He has engaged in center-of-the-universe behavior because in his constructed universe there is no one else.  His challenge now, which he got his first taste of this week at Augusta, is to continue to insulate himself mentally from the world around him for the sake of his game but no longer to lose touch with it completely and to come back to it even while the ball is in the air and certainly when the round is over.

But isn't this the challenge for every athlete?  I had never thought of it this way before Sunday, but the essence of sportsmanship appears to be that with respect to the athlete's competitive performance he is a single-minded, flawless, merciless killing machine, but at the very same time there is enough of a tether to reality that immediately upon the conclusion of the play and before the next one starts he is fully humane to his teammates and opponents.  The split personality of sportsmanship might best be demonstrated when a defensive player in football lays a devastating hit on the ball-carrier with the intention of turning the latter's body into a fine powder and then helps him up and pats him on the butt before they return to their respective huddles.

For the Christian athlete, this means that while in the competitive moment no one else exists, neither God nor neighbor, at the same time he devotedly loves God with his whole being and his neighbor as himself.  He flips between those two mental worlds of "I am all" and "they are all," between total disengagement and total engagement, in an instant.

This has to be extraordinarily tough.  I have actually had a taste of this, though not in sport.  I was a contestant on Jeopardy!, which you might think of as the highest competitive level for trivia (or at least way up there).  During my games (especially the first one) I was entirely and ruthlessly immersed in the competitive moment, and I would have answered every question correctly and left my opponents with nothing if I could.  But at the same time, in my overall experience, especially when I wasn't facing down clues, I had to represent Christ and truly love my competitors, preferring them above myself.  The only way I could do this was by making a huge effort beforehand to commit the entire thing to God to determine as he would and to detach myself entirely from the results, even though it involved significant and potentially life-changing money.  How much harder if the money was even more and if it was my actual career, not just a freak diversion?

This is the struggle the Christian athlete faces every time he laces up and puts on eyeblack, a struggle that most of us never experience, though I imagine that heart surgeons, litigating attorneys, corporate executives, politicians, and soldiers routinely deal with the same thing.  How do we shut out the world to compete at the highest level as if we are the god of our own tiny universe and still fear God and treat others as more important than ourselves?  How do we keep our competitive world from swallowing the real world and leading us to do outrageously foolish, wicked, arrogant, self-centered things?  Next time you're fawning over Tim Tebow or Josh Hamilton or the next great Christian athlete/projection of our hopes and dreams, consider praying for them as they negotiate this delicate mental dance that most of us don't face.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

He Will Serve His Servants

In Luke 12:35-38, Jesus says,
Get dressed for service and keep your lamps burning; be like people waiting for their master to get back from the wedding celebration, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.  Blessed are those slaves whom their master finds alert when he returns!  I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, have them take their place at the table, and will come and wait on them!  Even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night and finds them alert, blessed are those slaves!
Is it just me, or is the idea that the Lord Jesus will actually serve those waiting to serve him when he comes about the coolest and most amazing promise in Scripture?  It makes me want to be looking for him and thinking about his return all the time!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Phil Vischer's "What's in the Bible?"

Phil Vischer, creator of VeggieTales, has been busy since leaving that enterprise following the 2003 bankruptcy of Big Idea Productions.  His new company, Jellyfish Labs, produces the web video programming called Jelly Telly.  Using the characters from Jelly Telly, Vischer is producing a series of DVDs called What's In the Bible? with the goal of doing for biblical literacy among children what Sesame Street began to do for basic literacy over 30 years ago.

I watched the first disc tonight with my kids—it contains two half-hour episodes on the basic overview of what the Bible is and Genesis 1-11 respectively.  I have to say that I'm very excited about what Vischer is doing and can't wait to watch future installments.  (The second disc in the series is already available.)  My review in a nutshell is this: get it for your kids and watch it with them.  I want everybody to see these things, including (perhaps especially) adults whose knowledge of the Bible is a shade on the sketchy side—this information is valuable for believers of all ages.

I am amazed by Vischer's ability to communicate often challenging concepts lucidly and succinctly.  (For example, his explanation of the Apocrypha through Captain Pete the Pirate made me want to stand up and cheer.)  He elevates kids to the level of the material instead of dumbing down the material to the supposed level of the kids (as in so many, though not all, well-meaning children's story Bibles).  My four-year-old probably doesn't understand much of what is going on yet, but she can't take her eyes off it.  And the series is a stunning testament to his incredible virtuosity, as he both writes all the scripts singlehandedly and also voices (and probably "acts" with) all the puppet characters.  Seriously, is there anything this guy can't do?

If I were to laud all of the praiseworthy things about this disc I saw, it would take a while.  But instead, reluctantly (and perhaps unfairly), I'm going to point out the one concern I have about the series moving forward.  It involves a few related points from which I diverge from Vischer doctrinally.

The first is that Vischer makes a very big deal out of humans' free will.  This in itself is not a huge problem since all Christians believe in free will in at least the limited sense that through their lives humans are presented with options and make conscious choices among them.  (Not terribly controversial.)  But Vischer makes clear that what he means by "free will" is what is technically called libertarian free will, namely that an individual's will causes itself to make choices independent of other influences on it, including the nature of the individual him- or herself.  Obviously Vischer doesn't word it this way in this children's production.  But this is the idea that underlies his statements that we choose to love (that is, that our independent choice comes before and causes the act of loving) and that for God to make us love is for us not really to love at all but to be impersonal robots.  This view of the will is held in Eastern Orthodoxy and predominates in Roman Catholicism (I think), and it also happens to fit with the views of most Protestants, at least in the U.S.  I hold a minority view, namely that our free will consists in being able to do what we want to do, but what we want to do emerges from our nature and our environmental influences that we don't have total control over, but God does.  So in the case of love, rather than choose to love, I love automatically, by instinct, and then I choose behaviors driven by that love.  (For example, I didn't initially choose to love my wife.  I couldn't help but love her, and then I chose to love her in action as a result.)  And if God quietly alters my nature so that I instinctively love him when I didn't before, I don't feel particularly robotic as a result.

Related to this, because Vischer holds that God's hands are entirely off the will, things are genuinely risky for him.  There is no certainty that people will make choices that work out for the best, because God doesn't know or can't affect or at least won't affect what people choose.  By contrast, my view is that there is no risk for God, because God both has and exercises ultimate, absolute control over people's natures and people's environments that determine people's decisions.  So God isn't wondering how things will turn out, hoping for positive results, but rather he all-powerfully gets his way through people's choices, which he holds in his hand.

Another difference of opinion has to do with the nature of sin.  Vischer verbally describes sin as what results from our choices to disobey God and do things our own way.  He visually depicts sin as an external force that comes upon people who have made such choices and that influences subsequent choices.  I do not entirely disagree with this.  But I wish it was at least balanced by the idea that sin precedes our choices and drives them and that sin is inherent in our fallen nature—it emerges from within us, not just from temptations outside of us.  What Vischer implies in his account of Genesis 3-11 is that there is no original sin.  What I mean by "no original sin" is that each person is born with the ability to choose to live sinlessly, but each person has their own personal Fall when they do not do that.  He also implies, however, that each person does sin, presumably because of the influential presence of sin in human society into which we are born.  We'll have to wait and see if he gets more specific about all that.  This is roughly the Eastern Orthodox position and is also popular among many contemporary Protestants (and perhaps some Catholics as well).  It is not the historic Protestant and Catholic position, which is that humans are somehow born into sin, that Adam's transgression has fundamentally warped the nature of every one of his descendants, who are thereby sinful (and perhaps guilty) before committing a single sin and need divine intervention before they do a single thing really right.  (That's what "original sin" means.)  Again, for Vischer choice precedes nature, whereas for me nature precedes choice.

I wish that if Vischer was determined to jump into this thicket that he had in his inimitable way sketched Christians' differences on these points.  This is exactly what he did beautifully with respect to six-day creation versus theistic evolution in his telling of Genesis 1-2.  I am really, profoundly impressed with how he handled that.  It would be nice if he comes back around to these differences on free will and sin in that way later, but perhaps the ship has already sailed.

For me these doctrinal differences are not yet a deal-breaker.  I can talk to my kids about the alternate angles to the ones he presents as they're able to grasp them.  However, if these positions turn out to be central, predominant features of Vischer's narrative moving forward, they might become a deal-breaker for me.  In that case it would truly be a teaching that diverges from the instruction I want to give my kids.  Hopefully it doesn't go that way.  I can't wait to see what he does with Revelation.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Please Forward to All Your Friends!!!!!

Today I was forwarded an e-mail that contained a passionate tirade against the snowballing collapse of American civilization over the past ten to fifteen years, "the pace [of which] has dramatically quickened in the last two."  (Do the math.)  Supposedly it was written by historian David Kaiser, author of the blog History Unfolding.  Except that he didn't write it, and in fact much of its content is completely the opposite of what he thinks.  (See for where it actually came from.)

So some unknown person woke up in the morning and said to himself or herself, "America is really going down the crapper.  We are becoming so immoral, it just makes me sick!  If only I could take a stand against the wickedness and corruption all around us.  I know!  I'll take a comment on someone's blog that compares Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler, and then I'll pass it off as the work of a respected historian and send it to all my friends.  That should help get America's integrity back."

The rage among many in our land over the state of our nation morally, politically, and economically is not surprising.  That the rage is not only shared but stoked and spread by some of the most zealous Christians is also not surprising.  It is, however, extremely sad, not least of which because it deeply compromises the very reasons that God has left the sons and daughters of light in this age of darkness in the first place.  Please read this article by Francis Frangipane along these lines.  It concludes:
God desires mature sons and daughters who, while fighting for their world, open the door of love into His world.  To see our nation transformed, we ourselves must be transformed.  Otherwise, we will risk becoming Christian hypocrites: angry that the world is not Christian but untroubled that we are not Christlike.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Maintaining Vision

In Luke 11:29-36 Jesus rebukes his contemporaries for looking for a sign from him when Gentiles of past generations were impressed with less than what Jesus was displaying in his day.  Then Jesus goes on to explain that if your eye is in good shape then the rest of you will be illuminated but if it is in bad shape then the rest of you is in darkness.

Physically we can see how this is true.  If our eyes are good then we have enough light to operate our entire body effectively.  But if we are blind, no matter how much light beats on the rest of our body it isn't going to help us.  Jesus asserts that this is true spiritually as well.  If our spiritual vision is right, then we will walk wisely, and if not then we won't.

But how does one's spiritual vision get right?  This is where his teaching ties back to the previous rebuke.  The Queen of Sheba lived well because she saw Solomon's wisdom.  The men of Nineveh lived well because they saw the truth in Jonah's call to repentance.  Both could see everything well because they were looking at the word of God that they had and saw it for what it was.

Jesus, the Eternal Word, is wisdom and truth.  If we look unceasingly at him and recognize him for who he is, then everything else becomes clear.  If we take our eyes off him and turn toward other things, then we don't see anything, including the truth about Jesus himself.  It is as if as long as Jesus is in the center of our mind's eye, everything in our mind's peripheral vision becomes visible.  When Jesus leaves the center, then even what we focus on (riches, relationships, ambition, desire, suffering, anxiety, doing good) we can't really see.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Death and Taxes

They say that the only two sure things in life are death and taxes.  But seeing as Easter and April 15 are only 11 days apart, it occurs to me that because Christ is risen, death is not final, and because he is coming again, taxes aren't either.

Long live the King!

Mathias Grünewald, panel of the Isenheim Altarpiece (1515)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

In Gratitude or Ingratitude?

Someone told me today that her Bible study has assigned her to write down all of God's gifts to her.  What a wonderful project!  Along similar lines, why not read this message on gratitude (or perhaps more accurately, ingratitude) by my main man, Francis Frangipane.  (Believe it or not, the last part of that sentence rhymes.)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

One More Thing about Haiti You Should See

If you're like me, you have mixed emotions when you think about Haiti these days.  I really care about the country, and I really want them to rebuild beautifully.  I pity those who have lost everything, including dear loved ones.  I lament the entrenched poverty and government corruption that allowed a natural disaster to become a social disaster.  And I want to help.  And so when there is another news report about Haiti or another plea for aid, I want to pay attention.  But at the same time I don't want to pay attention.  I am overwhelmed by the need and can hardly look at it.  I want a quick fix and a clean solution to all the problems so they can go away in a place where the problems haven't gone away since colonial slavery.  I am tired of being depressed by the endless bad news.

But if you're like me, take this from someone who is like you: if you didn't see the clip about "The Lost Children of Haiti" on 60 Minutes two Sundays ago, please watch it.  Yes, parts of it are heartbreaking.  Some of those heartbreaking parts involve the legal form of child slavery in Haiti, and I believe that the U.S. should demand that that practice be outlawed before our government sends any more aid, because it is this very kind of injustice that cements Haiti's destitution even in "good" times.  But some parts of the story are inspiring, like the pastor who can't find his child but continues caring for orphans and giving God the glory.  If there's one more thing about Haiti that you can bring yourself to watch, this clip might be it.